Root, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson have been widely viewed as a class above their peers in recent years.
All four of the prodigies have become captains after turning heads with the quality and quantity of their Test runs.
All four have experienced highs and lows – it was only a year ago when Smith struggled to hide his frustration after a horrible loss in Hobart led to something of an overhaul of Australian cricket.
But while Kohli and Williamson went blow for blow with Smith during century-laden tours of Australia in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively, Root is yet to fire a shot in Australia.
Root, in the midst of his first Test tour since Alastair Cook handed over the captaincy, is facing the greatest test of his leadership to date.
The intensity of an Ashes tour is all-consuming. Andrew Flintoff, who led England to a 5-0 loss in 2006-07, referenced it this year while describing captaincy as “the worst job” he has ever had.
Root has posted two half-centuries in the current series to be England’s leading run-scorer. The right-hander knows he must deliver far more imposing innings if his team are to become the second side in Ashes history to fight back from a 2-0 deficit and win a series.
Much has been made of Root’s troubles kicking on after starts; just two of his past 13 Test scores of 50-plus have been converted into tons.
But the 26-year-old’s record in Australia, where he was axed from the tourists’ XI during Mitchell Johnson’s rampage four years ago, also paints a frank picture.
Root’s average from six Tests in Australia is a tick over 30. Shrink the sample size to first innings in Australia and his average is 11.5.
“I know I’m a good player, I know I’m going to score some runs out here,” Root said after scoring nine and 67 in England’s 120-run loss at Adelaide Oval.
Former England offspinner Graeme Swann feels captaincy is the cause of Root’s recent issues.
“I wish he didn’t have the burden and could just be our best-ever batsman,” Swann told ESPNcricinfo.
“This tour will be tough on him because that pressure will build and build.”
Mitchell Starc, who once shared a dressing room at Yorkshire with Root during a county stint, suggested England’s captain could “come out in the next couple of games and score some big scores”.
“We know how good a player he is… he’s not someone you can take lightly,” Starc said.
Smith is always keen to downplay talk of the rivalry between himself, Kohli, Root and Williamson but admitted in his recently-released biography that he always keeps an eye on their scores.
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